The Last Metroid is In Captivity: The Music of Super Metroid

Gamer Grooves

As always, a friendly reminder that this post may contain spoilers.

1994 saw the release of what many people consider to be the greatest Metroid game of all time. With all the power that the SNES could offer, Gunpei Yokoi lead a team of 15 to develop it, while Yoshio Sakamoto directed and wrote it. I can safely say that Super Metroid (as with Mega Man X) hosts one of the most recognizable and loved soundtracks on the SNES. It adapted some of the songs from the other two Metroid games (Metroid on NES and Metroid II on Game Boy) and created an entirely new classic.

I hadn’t done a full playthrough of Super Metroid until about 7 or 8 years ago. I got it for about 40 bucks at an EB games; they only had one in stock, and I wanted it real bad. Even though the game had been out for a decade at that point, I got to experience all of the stuff in the game as if it 1994 all over again. Boy-oh-boy was I in for the ride of a lifetime.

Kenji Yamamoto and Minako Hamano were responsible for creating this legendary soundtrack. Despite not beating the game before, I was already familiar with the score. The reputation for the music of Super Metroid had preceded it, so there were a couple of songs I had definitely heard before ever playing. Once you hear it accompanying the gameplay, however, it becomes a whole new experience. In fact, it is interesting to note that one of the songs on this list became the most recognizable (non-main title) theme in all of Metroid, even for those that haven’t played the game. I’d be curious to know if you know what it is before I get to it.

Songs

Theme of Super Metroid

This is the prologue theme of the game. As the introduction is running down the plot of Super Metroid, there’s one part that I consider my favorite section of the song. The section I’m referring to is 0:23-0:42, the part I consider it to be the theme of Samus herself. It presents Samus as the strong and heroic character we all love. The melody is more descriptive of Samus as a character than Super Metroid as a story, leaving the exposition to give us the backstory and the music to give us our hero.

Upper Brinstar

Upper Brinstar was one of the songs that I had never heard before I played the game for myself. I assumed Brinstar had only one theme (the theme of Lower Brinstar) so I was pleasantly surprised when this song kicked in. Upper Brinstar is a lush green environment, and the song has a jungle beat. It’s neither too serious nor too lighthearted, as Samus has just begun her journey into Zebes and is just cracking the surface of what is in store for her. Upper Brinstar is a neutral sort of area in that the environment isn’t overly aggressive towards you in comparison to the later zones. For example…

Lower Norfair

Seeing as how you had to get through a room filled with lava in order to access it, it’s no surprise that the theme of Lower Norfair broadcasts a place that wants to kill you. Lower Norfair is also very tribal, housing architecture and surroundings that very likely belonged to the Chozo civilization. The Chozo aren’t there anymore, so the architecture doesn’t do much other than be intimidating as monsters try to destroy Samus. This is the last area before Tourian and Mother Brain, so you know the environment is just not going to get easier for Samus. The pulsing of the music makes you think of the pulsing heat. It’s so far down in Planet Zebes that lava isn’t dangerous enough, so instead, lava is replaced by acid, upping lethality (Like sharks with lasers on their heads! – EDITOR FRANK). Lower Norfair was used again in the first Metroid Prime game as a remix in Magmoor Caverns, which is an awesome track if you get the chance to listen to it. Despite being quite popular, Lower Norfair doesn’t come close to being as recognizable as the next song.

Ridley’s Theme

This is the song I was referring to earlier as the one that would go on to be used in almost every Metroid game and be instantly recognizable. I know this is also the battle theme of Regular Torizo, Gold Torizo, and Draygon, but to me and I’m sure many people, this is the theme of Ridley. When he introduces himself in the beginning of the game as the now familiar giant purple dragon and steals the baby Metroid, he becomes the primary antagonist of the game. Ridley is even on the cover of the game, and really there’s no direct mention of Mother Brain until you actually fight her. This song got remixed again and again for each time Ridley would show up in a different game.

This song found its mark because it represents Ridley’s aggressive and chaotic nature. The fact that it was so attached to Ridley made it so that every time it played, you felt like you were facing off with a very bitter old rival.

After you defeat Ridley, the four boss statues raise an elevator from the ground and you take a trip to Tourian. You fight through Metroids and almost get killed by the (now huge) baby Metroid before it recognizes you as the one who spared its life on SR388. You arrive in a room built exactly like the one from the original Metroid and kill Mother Brain who is sitting in the glass case at the end. The big difference is this time Mother Brain reveals that she’s not just a brain in a jar. She stretches out her huge dinosaur-like body with horrific brain, eyes, and mouth exposed, and that begins…

Mother Brain

While listening to this song, have a look at what Samus is up against here:

Super Metroid - Mother Brain

When standing up straight, Mother brain is almost six-times the size of Samus. She has multiple high-damage attacks and is nigh unstoppable/unkillable. The music is reminiscent of something like Godzilla terrorizing a city, and with you being completely powerless. There is no hope to be found in this song, and not a single chance that you might be able to take this monster down.

In fact, the Metroid hatchling comes to save you and give you the Hyper Beam only after you’ve been brought down to near death by Mother Brain’s Laser Brain Attack. Once you have the hyper beam, the music changes to the theme of Samus and obviously victory is in your sight. Up until this point, this song provides you with nothing but helplessness and crushing despair. This is probably one of my favorite tracks from Super Metroid; not only is it an impressive theme for a final boss, separating her from the pack, but also because the song tried to psych you out by having those screeching-sounding parts interspersed through it. This isn’t just a foe to overcome, but a foe you will seemingly never overcome no matter how much you upgraded yourself.

Afterthoughts

Even though Super Metroid didn’t invent all the concepts used in the series, after playing it you definitely get the feeling that developers would try to use it as a baseline for what makes a Metroid game so good. Most if not all Metroid games are host to great soundtracks, using many iconic songs taken from Super Metroid itself. I probably had more time to take in these songs because I’m total garbage at these kinds of games. I love Metroid games and appreciate them for all they’re worth, but unless I’m told exactly where I should be headed, I’m gonna be struggling for a while. I’d like to think I’ve grown out of it, and hey, I can always surprise myself. That’s the mark of a great soundtrack, though. It’s something that can carry me through the game even if I’m terrible at it.

Feel free to comment below on what you think and what songs you really liked from Super Metroid. Until then, I’ll see you all tomorrow.

The Galaxy is at Peace.

Super Metroid - Cover

Alex McVeigh
About Alex McVeigh 28 Articles
Alex has been a nerd for as long as he can remember. Every normal conversation he has had could be matched 1 for 1 with a conversation about why Scrooge McDuck is obviously richer than Edward Cullens' Dad and here's why. He can talk about and play video games for hours only to conclude with "anyone wanna play some magic?